Assembly district finally gets vote

Come next week, the people of Assembly District 17 finally will have representation in the Legislature. They have precious little time to make their voices heard in Carson City.

On Tuesday, the Clark County Commission appointed Odis “Tyrone” Thompson, the 45-year-old regional initiatives coordinator for the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition, to the Assembly post. Mr. Thompson, a Democrat, fills the vacancy created last month when the Assembly expelled Steven Brooks, who won election to the office last year.

By the time Mr. Thompson is seated Wednesday, the 2013 session will be two-thirds complete. The end game is nearly at hand.

The voters of District 17 largely were forgotten this winter when Brooks suffered a mental health crisis that left him unable to function in public, much less fulfill the duties of the office. In February, on the opening day of the session, it was clear that Brooks couldn’t serve. He had been arrested, accused of threatening Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick. His instability and paranoia frightened everyone around him. He would be arrested again. And again.

No one has a right to an elected office. But instead of ejecting Brooks immediately so a replacement could be appointed in time to provide District 17 with a steward for most of the session, Assembly leaders dragged out the process out of concern for Brooks — and shut the public out of it.

By contrast, the County Commission dealt with the vacancy about as well as it could have. The county accepted applications and held a public forum for the candidates. Mr. Thompson’s appointment came less than three weeks after Brooks’ expulsion. Commissioners understood the importance of giving the North Las Vegas district a representative, and to his credit, Mr. Thompson has said being accessible to his constituents is a priority.

That won’t be easy. Mr. Thompson will have almost no learning curve. He will be pushed by the state’s power brokers and pulled by his party leadership, who are largely responsible for his appointment. Mr. Thompson will not have the benefit of months of walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors, hearing the concerns of voters.

If anyone in District 17 is still engaged in what their citizen Legislature is doing, it will be incumbent upon them to reach out to Mr. Thompson. As of Thursday, he still had not been assigned an Assembly email address. His office phone number was expected to be the same as Brooks’: (775) 684-8569.

This should bring an end to Brooks’ sorry saga, at least in Carson City. District 17 finally has a vote.

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